Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Preventing illegal long-line fishing
The previous article described how foreign tuna-fishing vessels were laying miles and miles of baited long lines around Ascension Island, a small, isolated island in the South Atlantic Ocean, and how local people had tried to remove the illegal fishing gear. Here are three responses, each of which puts forward a different course of action: one advises asking assistance from the UK (Ascension Island is a UK Overseas Territory), a second suggests that countries registering such ships should be more vigilant, and a third proposes that local communities should take action to damage the fishing gear of these illegal boats.
Peter Jacobs from Mustique in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean) writes: Here in St. Vincent we suffered in the ‘80s with illegal fishing boats with trawl nets fishing in our waters. The government at that time had two small coastguard boats, and managed to capture a few of the illegal boats. I think that the UK can and should do something about this problem. For as small islands, whether in the east or west, we all are in the same situation, and we need help to survive. We do not need handouts, we need specific help so we can look after our fragile conservation areas.
A second view comes from Bridget Hogg in The Bahamas (Caribbean): It should be an international crime for people to endanger the future of other countries’ wildlife in this way. I think that all those involved with the pirate ships should be penalized in some concrete way. Hopefully greater punishment and sanctions will encourage the countries of registration to be more vigilant in monitoring the ships they register and their owners, and having the moral conscience to refuse access to those groups which do not comply with the territorial regulations of other countries. My country, The Bahamas, registers ships, and I hope that we, like other nations, can continue to improve the environmental quality of our marine clientele.
Temakei Tebano from Kiribati (Pacific) suggests another course of action: Yes, being small our voices are hardly heard, but we can play our part in protecting our environment and resources. The fact is there are always greedy guys out there who just want to grab and go. Where there is an opening they will exploit it. What we can do is work together with our local government to find ways of keeping these people away. One possible way is to get some funding to hire small or even large aircraft to identify those boats. They will be very close to land at night, as I have seen in my own country (Kiribati) where poachers steal tuna and deep water fish. Then they slowly move away as dawn approaches, so the best time to get photos (with a good camera) is around 5 or 6 in the morning. The photos should be sufficient proof if court cases are laid. Another strategy is to join forces with some other groups, and to go out and cut their lines with big wire cutters and sharp knives, but make sure that you have backup air surveillance in case the poachers try to interfere with your efforts. Bring some flares just in case. It will take a lot of time and effort, but the loss of fishing gear will cost the poachers a lot of money and will slowly cripple their effort to steal fish in your waters. Small things like this can really impact the operation of those greedy guys. Do your neighbours have a patrol boat? If they do, why not ask them for help. You have the right to protect your resources and the helpless animals. You have my support.
Do you know of examples where any of these approaches have worked? If so let us know.
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